New in the collection: Conover’s soybean license plate

“Largest payroll per capita” may be a meaningful metric to economists, but it seldom appears in Google — and nowhere attached to Conover. Among those bragging: Coos Bay, Oregon, and Frankfort, Michigan. 

This promotional license plate likely dates to World War II, when metal shortages inspired Montana, Virginia and other states to make their official plates from a soybean-based fiberboard that proved more popular with goats, horses and mice than with motorists.

Conover has a diverse manufacturing history — including the delightfully named Picker Stick and Handle — but its population during the 1940s barely topped 1,000, so the per capita distinction may also grow out of small sample size.


Just what Domino’s didn’t need: YouTube prank in Conover

“[In 2006] the company reported its first full-year sales declines in the U.S. Domino’s went down before the economy did, and it stayed there awhile. The pizza remained cheap, but the recipes and ingredients hadn’t kept up with the foodie movement. And the company had abandoned a key marketing tool — its 30-minute guarantee — in the wake of several accidents, one fatal, which had led to two lawsuit verdicts that cost the company millions of dollars.

“Then, in the spring of 2009, came the moment dreaded by every fast-food chain of the YouTube era: a video of workers doing something gross or illegal. Or in this case, both: A Domino’s employee at a store in [Conover] North Carolina filmed another putting cheese up his nose and adding snot to a sandwich. The video went viral, leading the health department to shut down the restaurant temporarily. Domino’s had the two employees arrested for tampering with food (the orders never left the store and both workers received probation). J. Patrick Doyle, the president of U.S. operations, recorded a two-minute apology. That video didn’t go viral.”

— From “Domino’s atoned for its crimes against pizza and built a $9 billion empire” by Susan Berfield at (March 15)


Maybe naming a town isn’t as easy as it seems

Nicholas Graham’s revelation of Carrboro’s backstory — how UNC president and chemist Francis P. Venable gratefully  handed over title to the town’s name to the way less modest Julian Shakespeare Carr — reminded me of other instances in which North Carolina’s intent to honor the intelligentsia proved challenging:

Conover is named for the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova.

Murphy is named for the North Carolina educator Archibald Murphey.

— And the namesake town of the New England writer Oliver Wendell Holmes gets the spelling right — but calls itself (as acknowledged by the Gazetteer with a rare pronunciation tip) Wen-DELL.

Other examples, anyone?